This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.
In Texas, high school football is much more than a sport—it's a way of life—and many young boys dream of the day when they can participate and help lead their hometown teams to victory.
Baylor football coach Grant Teaff recalls an idea he had for improving his football game in Snyder, Texas:
"Early on I said, ‘Look, if I'm going to be ready for Friday night's game, I think I need mental rest, you know. I can be better at playing if I'm mentally rested.' So I decided that I would not go to school on Friday before the game on Friday night. The—two or three other guys had sort of seen what I'd done, and they decided, well, that'd be good for us too. If he's getting ready mentally, we can get ready, so they missed school."
Teaff describes how his coach reacted to this plan:
"So we all jovial, come in, getting ready for the game, we're going to win this game, and walk in the door. And there stood Mule Kaiser with his arms folded looking right at us. And I thought, Uh-oh. We walked in, and he said, ‘Grant, where were you this afternoon? Where were the rest of you guys this afternoon? You weren't in school.' I said, ‘Well, Coach, I—you know, I—you know, you told us it's really important to be mentally ready for this game, and I was getting mentally ready. Really, I feel great. I'm ready to go.' And he said, ‘You missed school.' I said, ‘Yes, sir. To get mentally ready.' He said, ‘You know that you can't do that.' I said, ‘No, but Coach, it's for the team.' So he said, ‘Come out here in the middle of the field.' Now, here's all my teammates around, and I was the example. And the other two, three guys were going to get it as well. But he said, ‘Okay, bend over,' and I bent over. And he had some lumber from somewhere. And he started on my rear end, and the splinters, pieces of wood were flying, the guys were over in their little locker areas covering up their head. I mean, he was—he whacked us all pretty good. And he said, ‘Now, about next week, what do you think about mental preparation?' I said, ‘Oh, Coach, I'm going to be in school. (laughs) I promise you that.'"
Baylor graduate Bill Patterson Jr. played for the Chicago Bears in 1939 and Pittsburg Steelers in 1940. But he recalls how, at one point in high school, he wanted to leave football:
"In my sophomore year I was getting hurt, and it was hot in workout, and the field was rough. And I wanted to quit, but I didn't want it to be my initiative. So I devised a scheme and told my mother that either I had to quit football or make poor grades. And I thought [for] sure that my mother would say, ‘Well, if it's a choice, you must quit football.' So then I would go to my coach and with big tears rolling down my cheeks, I'd say, ‘Coach, my mother is going to make me quit.' (laughter) But my mother was wise and she said, ‘Bill, if you don't want to play, I don't believe I'd quit in the middle of the season. Why don't you play out this season and then just don't come out next year.' And between that time and the next year I gained weight and maturity and decided I'd have another go at it."
On Friday nights during the fall, stadium lights continue to shine bright throughout Texas, building character on the field and bringing together communities off the field.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM Waco, NPR. For program transcripts or more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
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